Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mount Etna's eruptions close Sicily airport

Volcanic ash spewed from simmering Mount Etna on Friday, forcing authorities to close a nearby airport, officials said.

The Fontanarossa airport, the main facility in eastern Sicily, would stay closed at least until early Saturday, "when the state of the volcanic phenomenon and possible reopening of the airport will be examined," the airport said on its web site.

"This is all part of Etna's normal activity," said Antonella Scalzo, a geologist with Italy's Civil Defense Department. "The ash is a nuisance, it's not a precursor of a change in activity."
The 10,974-foot-high volcano resumed eruptions in early September and has sent lava streaming as far down as 7,546 feet. Scalzo said that is a safe distance from people's homes, which don't go any higher up the volcano than 2,297 feet.

Civil Protection Department spokesman Roberto Forina said the only damage from the ash had been the airport's closure.

Mount Etna, Europe's biggest and most active volcano, springs to life every few months. In 1669, a huge eruption destroyed Catania, on Sicily's eastern coast. Etna's last major eruption was in 1992.

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